All I Don't Want for Christmas- 10 Minimalist Christmas Gifts

It’s the only time of year I have mild panic attacks, not because I don’t know what to give or what I want for Christmas, but because I don’t want anything and I’m afraid I’ll get something with which I won’t know what to do. I know, it seems a little crazy but a few minimalists I know suffer the same anxiety. To be sure, we’re not “things” averse, we just don’t need them to be happy and in fact are generally happier without any excess. If you don’t endure the same hand wringing, perhaps these gift ideas will help you think more about wanting less, or at least get your thinking differently about how to celebrate the holidays with those you love. Breathe in and breathe out, it’s going to be OK Here are our 10 favorite minimalist gift ideas…

1. Give To a Charity!

Decide as a family- whether you're a genetic conglomerate or an army of one- what charity means the most to you and give at least half of the Christmas money you planned to spend on that charity. You can still have Christmas and the things that Christmas brings but you also are cutting back on the things because, do we really really need all that stuff? Plus, you're putting that money to good use in a charity you believe in.

2. Do a Book Exchange!

Like books as a gift? So do we. It's about our favorite thing, and there are plenty of good ones coming out this time of year. But a library is also one of those things that accumulates like breeding rabbits so here's a thought: get that book. Do it. Buy it and read it, but instead of adding it to your growing library, decide which existing book gets the heave hoe and pass it on to a local charity shop, donate it to the local library, or drop it off in the neighborhood free library if your neighborhood has them. Buy one, give one away for someone else to read. Even better, everyone bring a book they love to share so that all books trade hands. Now you’ve got your own book club!

3. Don't Spend a Dime but Give Away Your Time!

Give the gift of time, by committing your own to a local charity. Pet shelters, homeless kitchens, senior facilities...they all need help. Decide what and how and help out the community with your skills and your time. We suggest either volunteering one day a month for a year, or if your year is a bit unpredictable, one day a week for a month, but give your time and save money, a life, and someone's happiness. My bestie is a flight attendant and if ever there were a wonky schedule, it's hers. But she still volunteers. When she goes to Honolulu or a few of her regular layovers, she hauls her butt over to the local pet shelter and bathes dogs for a few hours, gets some sleep, and works the flight back home. If she can do it, so can you.

4. Make One (or all) of Your Gifts a Family Movie Day!

Christmas Day is a perfect day to get out and get to the theater for a family movie day. Or if you live in a country that doesn't have open theaters on Christmas Day, plan for a family movie matinee. Heck, splurge on popcorn WITH butter!

5. Invite Another Family or Your Extended Family Over For a Christmas Day Pajama Party!

I hosted a Christmas pajama party for about 3 years and it was amazing. Get out your favorite games, put on your favorite music or movie, make some delicious Glühwein and spend some time with your own family and with friends. And never worry about changing clothes!

6. Bundle Up and Go for a Christmas Day Walk!

That literally costs nothing and the sites are amazing. Just start walking, taking in the hood, seeing all the Christmas lights lit, enjoying hanging out with the fam (don't forget the dog!)...

7. Give Away Chores as Gifts!

Does someone else in your household do the laundry or the cooking or the cleaning? Give the gift of a break from that for a week or a month or one day a week for a year. Do you live alone? Offer to help your neighbor(s) with snow shoveling or leaf raking or lawn mowing or taking out the rubbish or recycling. You get to help, they get to feel loved! And best of all, it's free!

8. Give the Gift of Learning!

Ever wanted to learn a new language? Commit to listening to more classical music? Gaining a new skill? Or better yet, know someone else who wants to learn something more? Christmas is the perfect time to discover new horizons!

9. Buy the Clothing That Gets You Outdoors!

If you must spend money on things, especially clothing, make it be something that really gives back. A nice fleece, a good pair of hiking shoes, mittens and a ski cap, or a comfy scarf to encourage outdoor activities is always a plus. The right clothing for a good run, a rejuvenating hike, or just a regular winter stroll can make all the difference without bringing excess into the closet. After all, nothing is excessive if it gets used regularly and get you out of the house and into the fresh air!

10. Manage their Expectations!

If you are a minimalist, this is an uncomfortable time of year; people like to buy “things” for you, and “things” are exactly what you don't need. And the answer to “What do you want for Christmas?” can never be “Nothing,” because not everyone understands things are just not important to you. So we suggest you manage the gift giving expectations. Cash is always king and cash in hand buys experiences as well as things. Amazon or other online retailer gift cards can also be good because when the necessary electronic finally breaks down or the book you've finished finally gets read and recycled back into the neighborhood, something else must be read. Digital music can be purchased along with other necessary travel items. Changing the generous gift giver's vision from something wrapped in a box to envelopes or even things intangible can be tough but you'll both feel better if it's a gift you can actually use.

However it happened, however this season became the credit card burdening gift panic that it's become, it's not too late to stop the madness and change the expectations. It will also change the results. I do not remember what I got for Christmas even 5 years ago. But I DO remember a vat of Glühwein that Will made (it was amazing), I DO remember Gary and Yaoyu and Pippa and Al and Anna and Catherine coming over for games (it was amazing), and I DO remember us all in the kitchen cooking one of the dishes that made up our meal (it was also amazing) to settle in and watch the Star Wars trilogy. So create memories, not debt. Create more space for your head and your heart, not be forced to find a space to put yet another “thing.” Tis the season!